Heather Hemmings asked me in October 2015, “Hi Paul, firstly just like to say how I love your page, such interesting stuff, what a wealth of knowledge u must have. Just wondering if you know anything about Blantyre Rechabites. My Grandfather was born in Blantyre 1893, moved to Glasgow in 1897 when his father died leaving a widow and 3 kids aged 6, 4 & 2 yrs. From poor relief records, Blantyre Rechabites gave £20 to my GGM, but I don’t know if the family were members or if this was a compassionate donation.”
Blantyre Rechabites started in the mid 1880’s by Rev Stewart Wright, run from the Dixon’s Hall at Stonefield. The Rechabite Society in Blantyre would collect members who would agree to abstain from alcohol and pay a very tiny monthly subscription towards death benefits and other types of insurances. It is known the society sometimes also met in public houses. The concept of paying a monthly fee is still familiar today in insurance industry.
I do think Heather’s grandfather would have been a subscriber, if he received a sum of £20, although Im not 100% sure as being on poor relief would have meant an inability to pay perhaps even the small subscription. Many people in Blantyre were subscribers to Rechabites. These small insurance policies were a lifeline to many families. A sum of £20 in 1901 for example would be about £2,200 in todays money.
By 1909 there were two tents (or branches) in Blantyre.
Rechabites — “Home of Livingstone” Tent, No. 2379. — C.R., Bro. Matthew McPhail; D.R., Bro. James Stoddart; P.C.R., Bro. John Toward; Treas., Bro. David Peat; Stewards, Bros. John Arbuckle and Edward Paton; Levite, Bro. Charles Strachan; Secy., Bro. Thomas Westward, Abbeygreen, Stonefield; Asst Secy., Bro. Thos. Heggison. Lodge meets in East U.F. Church Hall every alternate Monday at 7.30 p.m. Juvenile Supt., Bro. Edward Paton, Henderson’s Bdgs. (this tent also in 1894 directory)”
Independent Order of Rachebites — “Kirkton” Tent, No. 3092, meets in Parish Church Halls, High Blantyre, every alternate Thursday at 8 p.m.; Lilybank Juvenile Tent, at 7 p.m. Chief Ruler, Bro. Wm. Coble; Deputy Ruler. Bro. John Graham; Treasurer. Bro. R. McDowall; Juvenile Supt. and P.C.R., Bro. W. Williamson; Secy., Bro. A. Hague,1 Broompark Avenue, High Blantyre.”
There may also have been a tent in Auchentibber for a report in 1908 states, “HIGH BLANTYRE RECHABITES’ EXCURSION.— The annual joint excursion of the “Lilybank” Juvenile Tent, High Blantyre, and Missionary Tent, Auchentibber, took place on Saturday to a field near Quarter Road Station, kindly granted by Mr Thomson, stationmaster, there. Headed by the Silver Band of the Blantyre corps of the Salvation Army, the excursionists entrained at High Blantyre at two p.m., reaching their destination shortly afterwards. After being refreshed with milk and pastry, the first part of the sports programme was proceeded with, taking the form of a five-a-side football tournament. There were also races for the boys and girls, and during the afternoon selections were ably rendered by the band, and were much enjoyed by the adult portion of the trippers. Although the afternoon was rather cold and showery, the outing was enjoyed by all. Home was reached in safety about 8 p.m.”
By 1915 whilst WW1 was in full swing, it is recorded, “RECHABITES— The half yearly meeting of the Home of Livingstone Tent was held in the Masonic Hall, Stonefield, on Monday. Bro. Wm. F. Lindsay presided, and there was a large turnout of members. The following were elected office-bearers for the next six months :— C.R. Walter Brunton; D.R. John Galloway; P.C.R. Wm. F. Lindsay; Treasurer, Thomas Galloway; Stewards, Matthew McPhail, jun. and James Middleton; Levite, Techniah Arbuckle; Guardian, James Gemmell; Minute Secretary, Wm. Park; Secy., Thomas Westwood, 40 Craig Street, Blantyre; Superintendent, Wm. F. Lindsay; Assist. Superintendent, Matthew McPhail. This Tent has 46 members on active service, and intimation has just been received of the first loss in Bro. Robert Devon, whose wife is at present residing in Motherwell.”
You may be astonished to know the society continued even into the 1980’s. I myself, had a policy as did some of my family. Here are our little cards. (although I have to say, as a child, of course I abstained from drinking!). It was more of a small insurance policy for my mother and father, to cover any costs if any of us become seriously ill. I was part of Tent 3092, the Kirkton Tent. It is unknown when the society dissolved in Blantyre, but it is known that these small policies are long since redundant, the last entries paid for in 1988.
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Moira Lees I remember my gran Moir saying she was in the racha bites